Juan Manuel Sanz / © ICEX
The fig is a traditional fruit crop throughout the Mediterranean, and Spain is one of the world's main producer countries. Spanish figs are of exceptionally high quality, with a thin skin, small seeds and a high sugar content. Although very perishable, the fruits can be dried, thus extending the period of consumption. Spanish production of dried figs accounts for approximately 20% of world production, depending on the year.
One of the most highly-appreciated varieties in Spain is Cuello de Dama, an elongated, thin-skinned, very sweet fig, mostly grown in the Tiétar valley in the provinces of Cáceres (Extremadura) and Ávila (Castile-Leon). Figs from the Extremaduran district of Almoharín are especially popular. Another variety mostly used for drying is Fraga, from the district of Fraga in the province of Huesca in Aragón. In the Roman Empire, Spanish figs enjoyed great prestige and fetched high prices.
Figs can be dried in the sun or artificially to reduce their water content, although naturally-dried figs are considered to be of superior quality. The fruits are dried whole and are usually presented in flattened form, often with a dusting of sugar or flour.
Dried figs can be eaten directly out of the packet, or used for stewing, in desserts, pastries and ice cream. The traditional "Pan de higo", or fig loaf, is a high-energy, flat cake made of very finely chopped dried figs with nuts and flavorings or spices. The combination of dried figs with walnuts is a popular aperitif, known as "poor man's dessert". A recent development is the production of chocolate-coated, dried figs.